Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University
“Harry Potter enthusiast who dreams of becoming a CEO or an SNL cast member.”
Hometown: Morganville, NJ
Fun Fact About Yourself: I love Broadway and collect playbills from every show I have seen – so far, I have 55!
Undergraduate School and Major: Cornell University – Industrial and Labor Relations
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Goldman Sachs – Human Capital Management Associate
Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Johnson’s curriculum places an emphasis on building effective and collaborative leadership skills. As someone who aspires to hold a senior management position one day, I understand the importance of refining my current skillset to become more successful. At Johnson, each student has the opportunity to lead a core team group project through the Leading Teams Practicum and receives feedback on his or her leadership skills. The ability to receive feedback from my professors and fellow students is invaluable. I appreciate that Johnson focuses on building leadership skills that foster teamwork and collaboration.
What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Supportive. Although school has not started yet, we have already created an incredibly close-knit community thanks to weekly video chats, game nights and our Slack group. Everyone is friendly and eager to help; from discussing loan options to looking for help getting groceries during quarantine, our group has discussed it all. I am lucky to have such supportive classmates.
What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am excited to join many of the clubs. Specifically, I am excited to join the Johnson Board Fellowship. The fellowship allows Johnson students to serve as volunteer, non-voting members for a non-profit Board of Directors in the Ithaca area. I aspire to be a member of the Board of Directors for a university or corporation someday, so this is an incredible opportunity to help the Ithaca community while gaining exposure into the role of a board member.
What was your initial impression of Cornell Johnson? How did it evolve as the recruiting process continued? As a Cornell alumna, I was excited to apply to my alma mater and travel to campus for my interview. However, I could not have predicted the added challenges of applying to business schools during the pandemic. When my in-person interview was switched to a virtual setting, the Cornell Admissions team immediately scheduled a Zoom meeting to provide clarity on the virtual interview process. I was so relieved and appreciated that Cornell informed us so quickly. My recruitment process continued remotely; the fantastic planning and care that Johnson executed in both the recruitment process and virtual admitted students’ events made me even more confident in my decision to enroll. As an enrolled student, Johnson continues to actively engage with students and keep us up to date with the University’s decisions related to COVID-19.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I had the opportunity to work on Goldman Sachs’ annual proxy statement. My role was to manage and track data throughout the year to be ultimately included in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis portion of the proxy. In addition, I participated in meetings with various stakeholders in the firm and learned about the draft process of the proxy statement. It was exciting to be a part of something that is so important to a public company early in my career and be able to be involved in the draft process before the proxy statement became public.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I had always planned on pursuing a graduate degree and ultimately decided to apply soon after I was promoted to Associate. At that time, I started to think about where I wanted to be in 10 years from now and how I would get there. Looking ahead, I aspire to be in a senior leadership role that allows me to have strategic oversight of the team or department I manage. To get there, I need more than knowledge and proficiency in core business principles – I need more practical real-world work experiences than I would gain staying in my current role. I started to network with individuals in more senior and strategic roles, who encouraged me to go back to school for my MBA.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Columbia, NYU Stern, Georgetown McDonough
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? My favorite and most challenging question asked was what one experience or example would the back of my resume show that would give the admissions committee a better sense of who I was and how I would contribute to my MBA community. I spent a lot of time thinking about what single experience best showcased myself and asked close family and friends for their input. It was helpful to see myself in their eyes when trying to select one example that best represented me.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? When evaluating schools, it was important for me to find a program that fostered team building and collaboration in addition to offering a robust academic program. As someone who does not have a traditional business undergraduate degree, it was important I find a program where I would feel supported if I needed extra guidance or questions answered in particular areas. At one of the schools I visited, an administrator explained that picking a school was like picking a pair of shoes: while some look appealing, they are not a comfortable fit. I spent a lot of time making sure I was picking a program I would be comfortable in and not just a program that looked great on paper. When I visited schools, I paid attention to current students or alumni stories: did they only share about an internship or job they received, or did they also highlight stories of personal connections and mentorship?
In addition, I am interested in pursuing a career in brand management, and therefore focused my search on schools with resources in that field. I do not have experience in brand management, so it was important that the program I selected would prepare me to succeed in my internship and later my career. I spoke to students either interning or working in brand management to see how helpful their school was in teaching them the skillset needed to succeed and helping them get their current role.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I received a transfer option to Cornell’s ILR School as a high school senior and decided to plan to transfer colleges for my sophomore year. Cornell’s degree was incredibly unique and I thought it would best prepare me for graduate school or employment. With my mind on the future, I made the difficult decision to reject an offer to go to school in Washington D.C. and attend a college much closer to home for freshmen year. I was afraid if I took a train to D.C. that I would fall in love with the city and never transfer to Cornell. Although I was initially devastated to not attend college in D.C. – and knew transferring would be a difficult road from an academic and social perspective – I am proud of my decision. Cornell gave me incredible opportunities and opened my eyes to a career path I may never have explored. My experience taught me that with dedication and hard work, your path does not need to be straight in order to be rewarding.
DON’T MISS: MEET CORNELL JOHNSON’S MBA CLASS OF 2022